Beauty: Do-It-Yourself Makeup Brush Cleaner!

Brushes (Image Credit: Tezarah Wilkins)

Like most girls, I use makeup everyday; if not twice, depending on the day. This, in turn, leads me to always using my makeup brushes! When you think about how often and where those brushes go, I feel I should be cleaning them as often as I wash my face, but I feel I can speak for most people when I say, I do not clean them anywhere near as often as I clean my room! I have used the wipes that can be pretty pricey. They range from $10-$15 with about 15-20 wipes, averaging about a $1 a wipe. Sure, they are a quick fix, but I feel they never get them as clean as they were when I bought them.

So, all of this led me to do some searching on do it yourself brush cleaners. The first one I came across was 1 cup of warm water, 1 tablespoon of liquid dish detergent and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in a cup. I gave the ingredients a little mix and dipped the brushes in one by one and gave them a good swirl around the cup. I saw the makeup come right off the brush and turn the cleaning mixture a dirty shade of brown. I rinsed them under luke warm tap water, reshaped and laid flat dry on a rag overnight. Initially I was a turned off by vinegar going on my brushes, which would then go on my face. No worries, the mix of the detergent leaves them smelling fresh and clean.


The second method I used was, 1 cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of baby shampoo (My niece’s Burt Bees Shampoo) I did the same as above, with a different but equally as dirty set of brushes. As I swirled them in the cup, I could see some makeup coming off, but it didn’t stop there. It continued as I rinsed them under the sink. With the vinegar/soap mix, the brushes were already clear of make-up before I rinsed them under the sink. I didn’t have to waste extra time rinsing.


So, I would have to say, I like the version with the vinegar better. It was evident that before rinsing it was taking the old makeup off of my brushes. The baby shampoo left them smelling so very sweet, but I didn’t feel that they were left just as clean as my other brushes.

40 thoughts on “Beauty: Do-It-Yourself Makeup Brush Cleaner!

  1. ecochic87 says:

    I’ve just done the hot water, and little bit of hand soap, rubbing in circles on my palm trick. Then rinsing, and shaping. When dry, I used a comb to get them fluffy and take out the knots.
    But I like how simple your vinegar trick is. I will definitely try that one out!

  2. Emily says:

    I have been using a method somewhat like this: dish soap and olive oil. You just put them on a paper plate and swirl the makeup brush around. The makeup will come out and you can rinse the brushes. But, you are not supposed to lay the brushes down as they dry, because the water will run down the handle and loosen the glue, and once the glue is loosened, the bristles will start falling out and your brush may be ruined. (I have learned from experience)
    I put my brushes in a cup, handles up, to dry. The brushes are normally dry within 6 hours after washing, and they smell really good from the soap. You can use this method every day, once a week, or however often you wish. Hope I helped! 🙂

    • Angel says:

      Not sure about the logic on the water running down the handle on this…How does water run down the handle loosen the glue when laid flat but not when put in a cup bristles up?? You would think that putting them in the cup bristles up would make the water run down the handle a bit more, right?

  3. thenielsonfamilyadventure says:

    You would be better off using white vinegar along with the gentle baby soap. Dawn is harsh and hard to rinse. The vinegar is what does most of the work (plus it naturally kills bacteria). Just thought I’d throw that out there. Brushes are expensive and you don’t want to break down the adhesive quicker by using harsh soaps.

    • Kit says:

      Thanks, knowing that vinegar helps in breaking down bacteria helps me 100 percent. I have acne prone skin and not cleaning my sponges and brushes properly maybe the reason why I’m breaking out.

  4. lyndzeeluu says:

    I tried this but with baby shampoo. I also added a tiny amount of olive oil for softness. I really liked how clean my brushes came out after I rinsed them and there was no smell of vinegar. In the future I will a wider container because I had to keep pouring out the mixture. I was afraid there was too much liquid and it would ruin my brushes. Especially when it came to cleaning my Kabuki brush. But still a great way to clean my make up brushes.

  5. Sharon Broome says:

    I use the evoo/dawn dish detergent and I always have the issue of soap getting stuck inside the brush handle so no matter how much I rinse them hey still have a soapy residue. Also i use brush guards and when I stand them up in a glass to dry it takes them forever!!!! I usually just end up laying them down on a towel.

    I think I might try the vinegar one. Maybe it’ll work better. Thanks!

    • Danielle says:

      Used the dish soap and vinegar mix tonight before even seeing this! It did just as you have described and they don’t smell like vinegar at all 🙂 I kept the water below the handle piece and wrapped a paper towel around the metal before lying them down on a towel. Brilliant 😉

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  7. Farhana says:

    I bought a cheap brush cleaner online (from ELF) which was very unhelpful. Since then, I’ve mixed it with a combination of: dish soap, baby shampoo and a bit of liquid leave-in hair conditioner. It works well (and I’m sure all the bacteria is removed/killed) but I can’t help but want to try the vinegar and dish soap trick now!

  8. Robin B says:

    OMG – this works great! I used to wash my brushes with either dish soap or shampoo but the secret ingrediant (while vinegar) makes brush cleaning 1000 times faster!!!! Thank you!!

  9. Siena says:

    I allways use Johnson and Johnson to clean my brushes. I have Mac, Sonia Kashuk, NYC, ect brushes and when I tried washing them with the first method they didn’t rinse more tinged water but they shed more make up when I used the same set of brushes right after in the Johnson and Johnson. Viniger is more of a disinfectant than a cleanser.

  10. Jessica says:

    Don’t lay your brushes down to dry. As a couple people have posted, it will eventually loosen the adhesive in the handle and bristles will start to fall out. A trick I found was to use chip clips or binder clips and a clothes hanger to hang dry your brushes, bristles down. I use dawn and evoo mixture. The evoo is supposed to keep bristles conditioned.

    • The Daily Quirk says:

      Yes, it should be fine to use, but as with any do it yourself, test it out on one brush first. Make up brushes are made of all different materials so you want to be sure yours do well with the vinegar solution before you do an entire batch 🙂

  11. Ellejay1214 says:

    I just did this with my brushes for the first time ever. I have had this one big fluffy brush since 2003… For starters, I don’t know why I never thought to clean the things I’m wiping all over my face. But as a testiment to how well this works, it cleaned out what literally appeared to be ten years of makeup. Ew. I had to remix the solution and swish my brush for about half an hour to get it all out, but each time the solution turned beige and near opaque. So disgusting. I now know to do this WAY more frequently.

  12. Kayla says:

    I just did this and it was amazing!!! It made me feel so much better about what I am using on my face every day! One question… is the dish detergent safe for the skin? I am assuming since it is all rinsed off there is no issue, but I was just wondering. Thanks for posting this!

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  14. Erica says:

    I know this post is not new but I recently found it on Pinterest. I just used this technique to wash all of my makeup brushes, it worked great and was way less time consuming than washing each brush with soap in the palm of your hand (my usual method). And they rinsed clean in just a few seconds after swirling the brush around in the solution for (also) a few seconds. The hairs on my brushes are so shiny!! It’s amazing what vinegar can do. Supposedly (I only say this cause you can’t believe everything you hear) Dawn has been used to wash wildlife after oil spills because it cuts grease, is not harsh on animals’ skin, is biodegradable and contains no phosphates (I promise I have nothing to do with Dawn). Interesting.

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